Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Jesus (Page 3 of 12)

God’s glory is not what you think

“The greatest glory Jesus brought to God was not when he walked on the water or prayed for long hours, but when he cried in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and still continued to follow God’s will, even though it meant isolation, darkness, and the silence of God. Thus, we know that when everything around us fails, when we are destroyed and abandoned, our tears, blood, and dead corpses are the greatest worship songs we have ever sung.” – Ziya Meral

This is why my favourite hymn is Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well With My Soul”. Here is the story behind the writing of it:

A few articles of mine published this week…

A few articles of mine have been published on the web this week. Here they are:

Here is my latest article, published on the Godspace website. In it I try to explain that salvation is not the end of the Gospel. God has saved us for a purpose, and it is not to go to heaven when you die.

Salvation is Not Enough

By Nils Von Kalm In Christian circles, we generally place primary emphasis on believing in Jesus. After all, Acts 16:31 tells us that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will be saved. But what are we saved for? And what if God believes in us as well as us believing in God?

The next article is one I posted on Soul Thoughts a few months back. It’s called Cry for Home and was published over at Sight Magazine.

Finally, this article is my first one to be published on Christian Today. It’s another one that has been previously posted on Soul Thoughts. This one is about how to recover from FOMO.

Hope you enjoy them!

Brene Brown: love weeps…

I love Brene Brown.

I mean, I’m not in love with her, but I love her reflections on life. Her raw honesty, especially about grief and shame, are so refreshing. Having experienced a fair amount of grief in the last few years, and learning to recover from shame, what Brene Brown says resonates so strongly with me. 

In this short interview montage, Brown talks about a number of things, but her take on why she says God is love and Jesus is the Son of God is disarming in its rawness and challenge to nice, middle-class faith. Check these words out on love:

“People would want love to be like unicorns and rainbows, and then you send Jesus in and people say, ‘Oh my God, love is hard, love is a sacrifice, love is eating with the sick…love is trouble, it’s rebellious.”

Then she quotes one of my favourite song lyrics, from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah: “Love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah”

Brown goes on:

“Love is not easy; love is not like hearts and bows. Love is very controversial…Jesus wept – love weeps”.

When Brene Brown talks, I listen. This is someone who knows what coming through the other side of suffering is about.

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” Good words from Brené Brown as we enter Holy Week.

Posted by The Work of the People on Saturday, 19 March 2016

Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Before people like me judge Donald Trump for his bombastic statements, let’s remember that he is a reflection of the adolescent culture we all live in.

Here is an article of mine on the Trump phenomenon, published here in Ethos…

Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Monday, 4 April 2016 | Nils von Kalm I find myself fascinated by the Donald Trump phenomenon. Why is it that a man who blatantly lies, advocates war crimes, promotes xenophobia and can’t decide whether or not to condemn the support of a KKK leader, is set to become the Republican nominee for the leadership of the most powerful nation in the world?

Why the Resurrection still matters in the 21st century

Behold-the-Man-Antonio_Ciseri-e1330966503449Another Easter has come and gone. As we reflect on what it means 2,000 years after the event, I am reminded that the circumstances in which the world finds itself in today, early in the 21st century, are similar to that in which the first Christians found themselves 2,000 years ago.

On that first Easter day, a handful of Jesus’ disciples became convinced that a new King had been enthroned, a new Lord. They became convinced that the teacher from Nazareth who they had been following around for three years was alive again, was the saviour of the world, and was the world’s rightful Lord. He actually was who he said he was, and now they finally understood.

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Message to men: you have nothing to prove…

9780310343370_31_image-1024x886The last twenty years or so have seen an encouraging increase in the number of books being written focusing on what it means to be an authentic male in our culture. Ever since Steve Bidduph wrote his epic Manhood in the mid-1990s, the growth in the men’s movement has seen more men work towards becoming more emotionally centred and available to their families and other loved ones.

This life-giving trend towards becoming better men has been equally seen in Christian circles. Richard Rohr, Parker Palmer, John Eldredge and others have written and taught much on what a real man looks like in a culture that pressures men to be someone they are not.

Into this mix comes probably the best book I have read on being a man among men. Nate Pyle’s Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood is a breath of fresh air in the increasing volume of literature on men and their issues.

It is wonderful to see an author be so open and vulnerable about his own vulnerability about not feeling like a man for such a long period of his life. Pyle’s experience will resonate with many men in the Church, including myself. It is only in recent years that I have done a lot of work on what a genuine man looks like. Reading Pyle’s book has allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief that you don’t have to be a “warrior man” – as some Christian authors emphasise, to be a godly man.

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Donald Trump and Christians

Two things from this article stand out to me: the utter foolishness of Donald Trump, and the equally utter foolishness of every Christian who supports him. Check these quotes out:

  • “It’s hard, because my whole life, I take money, take money. Now, I’m going to be greedy for the United States. I’m going to take and take and take.” – Trump, at a rally in Georgia on Monday.
  • John Lee, 47, who runs a small business selling ‘Christian clothes’, was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the second amendment. ‘We want to see The Donald,’ he says. He has common sense. He doesn’t put up with wish-wash; he’s not your standard politician. He stands up for principle and takes care of his people.’

Meanwhile, I hear Jesus whisper down through the ages:

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:15-21

Crisis for Republican party as Trump heads for Super Tuesday victory

Donald Trump appears poised for sweeping victories on Super Tuesday that would effectively anoint him the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, leaving the polarised conservative party in the throes of an existential crisis.

Jesus was not a nice guy

priorities-full

“Trying to manage my…image kept me trapped, working to control others’ opinions of me rather than doing what I knew was right…I stayed on the margins of my life, acted to get into the thick of things, terrified that I was going to hurt someone, or offend someone, or mess everything up.” – Alison Vesterfelt

I used to be like this. In my teens I wouldn’t talk to anyone unless they spoke to me first because I thought I might offend them. It was really about me being scared of rejection. I’m still a people pleaser to an extent. Just last year I was told by someone at work that I was the nicest person in the office. It was a compliment but it didn’t sit right. I instinctively knew it was something that was a character flaw in me.

When I was in my early twenties, I used try to compensate for my niceness by being overly blunt a lot of the time. I did it to the point of sometimes being rude. I was a mixture of both bluntness and niceness. People saw me as kind, which I was as well, but I didn’t know then what I know now about being loving. I was deeply insecure and scared of going back to the niceness that was previously such a large part of my character. I thought that if I went back to that, I was going backwards in my growth and wasn’t being real. 

These days I speak up a lot more. I’m still a bit of a people pleaser at times, but I have learned that Jesus was not a nice guy. Let me repeat that: Jesus was not a nice guy. If you think he was, you’re missing my point about niceness.

But hear this though: it’s not a matter of trying to compensate for being overly nice by being blunt, or vice-versa. Neither niceness or bluntness is necessarily loving. It’s about trusting God, surrendering everything to Jesus with the attitude he showed in the Garden: not my will but yours be done.

As Alison Vesterfelt says, these days I try to think about kindness instead of niceness. Just thinking of it like that is mind-blowing for me. Jesus was the kindest, most loving person who has ever lived. That’s the sort of person I want to be.

Are the commands of Jesus only for Christians?

Where_is_the_loveThe recent speech by our former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in honour of the late Margaret Thatcher in London, has certainly stirred the pot in terms of what it means to love our neigbour.

In the speech, Abbott spoke about asylum seekers making their way into Europe, and compared the situation to his former Government’s attempt to stop asylum seekers from reaching Australia by boat. In invoking the command of Jesus to love your neighbour, Abbott made the point that, while it is a wholesome ethic, it is currently leading Europe into “catastrophic error”.

The speech predictably gave rise to much heated debate about the treatment of asylum seekers and, in particular, whether or not Abbott was actually trying to say that Jesus was misguided in saying that loving your neighbour is the best way to live life. It has also raised the question once again of whether or not Jesus’ command is meant only for Christians.

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How to overcome your addiction (yes, yours)

Hi, my name is Nils and I’m an addict. And so are you.

Most of us don’t have the obvious addictions like drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex. But we all have attachments, certain beliefs about ourselves and the world. Everyone of us is addicted to certain patterns of thinking. If you’re not sure about that, a great book to read about it is Addiction and Grace by Gerald May. 

We live in a society that places way too high a value on feeling good. When that happens, especially at the expense of relationship and connection, addiction thrives and shame eventually sets in. We substitute feeling good about ourselves for feeling good.

In our culture, addictions take many forms. We are addicted to our smart phones, to shopping, to making more money, and it is killing our souls. If you don’t think you are addicted, try stopping for a few weeks and see how you feel.

Research is now showing that there is a definite link between the lack of connection in our society and addiction. As the above TED talk points out, in the United States, the number of people who can say they have close friends to call on in a crisis has been diminishing since the 1950s. The same would be true in Australia, as we are a very similar culture which is enormously influenced by the US.

Johann Hari, in the above talk, also says this:

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